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Sexual Orientation, Slash Fandom, and the Problem of Sample Selection 
29th-Jun-2006 09:35 am
byronesque starbuck
So fairestcat has a little post going on the question of slash and the closet. And her post got me to thinking, along with the comments. (You should all go take a look at the post and the ensuing discussion.)

But as I was reading, I was thinking about one of those questions that always sort of piques my interest. Someone in one of the comments pointed out that most slash fen are straight.

Well, I'm not so sure about that. I mean, for those of you who know the story about how I got into slash, you know that I came into slash already aware that I was a lesbian, and that probably most of the people I ran into in fandom, at least according to the scholarship I'd read, would be straight. And then, to my surprise, that wasn't the case at all.

Demographic research on fandom is very difficult to do, largely because of the multiple pseuds many of us have and the fact that when we talk about slash we are, as that other thread pointed out, talking about sex. And many scholars who've written about sex have pointed out that people have all kinds of emotional baggage about sex, so when you ask them questions about it, many of them don't tell the truth.

I'm not delusional enough to think I can get anything approaching a scientific poll. But since my experience in fandom has told me that there are a lot more queer women in fandom than the scholarship we have so far suggests, I want to run a highly unscientific poll. I'm going to bet that just as I found a whole hell of a lot more queer women in fandom where I looked than the scholarship led me to believe that there would be, I might get interesting results if I post a poll in my journal about the question of sexual orientation, identification, and fandom too.

1. Do you now, or have you ever, written and/or read slash and considered yourself a part of slash fandom? (Slash is defined for purposes of this survey as any story/art/meta that depicts characters in a homoerotic relationship--m/m or f/f.)


2. Do you create fannish texts? That is to say, do you write stories or make art?

Other (explain in comments)

3. What is your sex?


4. In your everyday life, how do you identify your sexual orientation and/or preference?

100% heterosexual, period.
Heterosexual, unless you count my proclivity for reading and writing gay porn.
Bisexual in some theoretical way, but heterosexual in practice. (By this I mean, you've had same-sex desires of some flavor but have not ever acted upon them in any physical way because you're not actually interested in the physical.)
I identify as bisexual, and don't you think for a minute that makes me half heterosexual or try to tell me that I'm on the fence or some other biphobic crap.
Bisexual in some theoretical way, but lesbian, gay, queer, dyke, etc. in practice (see option 2 above for explanation)
Lesbian, gay, queer, trans, dyke,etc. unless you count my proclivity for reading about the boy on boy/girl on girl sex.
100% Lesbian, gay, queer, trans, dyke, etc. period, and don't you dare tell me that what I read means I'm not one

5. If you identify as some flavor of straight (sorry GLBT folks, your question is next), do you think that your interest in slash makes you a little "queer" (in the sense of non-normative sexuality) in some way?

Other (explain in comments)

6. If you identify as some flavor of GLBT, and you read slash about the gender you don't identify as being attracted to, do you think your interest in that slash makes you somehow a little "straight"?

Other (explain in comments)

If there's anything else you want to add to the discussion, feel free to bring it up in comments.

EDIT: Oh my God, you were all totally busy while I was out of town. I will reply to everything, eventually, I promise, but, dude, things had totally slowed down before I left.
29th-Jun-2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
Poll results are less interesting with only one response. *g* This looks mighty fun--good discussion--will check in later and see how it all plays out.

I feel boring in my sheer heterosexuality. *sigh*
29th-Jun-2006 05:40 pm (UTC)
Hey, it's not boring. It's just more common. And apparently, that only one response thing has already fixed itself before I had time to thank you on being the first,
29th-Jun-2006 05:02 pm (UTC)
I chose "bisexual in some theoretical way" for #4, but my real answer would be halfway between the "identifying as bisexual" and "bisexual in some theoretical way". Because in theory I'll still fuck anything that moves, but I haven't actually slept with a guy in years now.
29th-Jun-2006 06:08 pm (UTC)
You might want to take a glance at my response to lolaraincoat below, because like you, I have trouble with my own questions. If I were going to do a serious poll, I would have to figure out how to work some of these problems out.

Maybe what the poll is really telling us is that when I get cranky with the lack of alternatives on polls, I'm not the only one, and that as slashers, most of us have spent a lot more time trying to think through the complexities of sexuality than some other subcultures might have.
29th-Jun-2006 05:15 pm (UTC)
The question about identity could distinguish among current practice (for me, monogamously het), practice over time (for me, bi leaning-toward-lesbian) and identity, both currently (me: confused) and over time (me: usually lesbian. )

I think there are a lot of us for whom entering a community of slash fen is a means of remaining erotically connected to a group of women when that would not otherwise be easy for us to do in the circumstances of our lives, either because we're monogamous or because we're leading relatively straight lives or both.
29th-Jun-2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
I know. It's a huge problem. I was introcuded to the Klein scale, rather than the Kinsey, as an undergrad, and I like it a lot better than Kinsey, but, at the same time, Klein has so many variables in it that it's hard to represent all of it.

Based just on the comments I've gotten so far, if I redid the poll, or did one for actual data, I'd want to include questions that seperated out behavior, fantasy, and identity over time as well. I would have a hard time answering my own question, precisely because in the past I identified as bi, and had relationships with men that were really quite important to me, even if at present I have no interest in relationships with men, but I feel like answering 100% lesbian somehow devalues the realtionships in the past, and at the same time, I feel like bisexual isn't really the right answer either because I don't really have any interest in men at present.

I have, however, suspected that for me part of the appeal of slash is a way of remaining connected to those parts of myself--in the sense of reading and writing about it, so it completely makes sense to me that the same dynamic could be at play for women currently with men who want to connect to other women erotically.
29th-Jun-2006 05:30 pm (UTC)
Fascinating, and totally cool poll. The identification question is iffy because as lola noted there's so much of a spectrum over time -- i picked the answer that's my favourite over the years and because i refuse to limit my sexual identity to genital activity alone.

And thanks for the link to the post that started it -- fascinating stuff. I'll probably link in my journal too....do not have time to read the whole thread (on lunch break) but will be checking back...
29th-Jun-2006 06:11 pm (UTC)
Hey, link away, and no worries about checking in or not. I so should have posted this on a Friday when I don't have stacks and stacks of work to do.

But, yes, I also refuse to limit to to genital sexuality. I was trying to be helpfully vague with the "physical" descriptor, in part because I have a pretty broad definition of "physical." I am personally under no delusions that I got an erotic, even if it wasn't sexual, charge off the girl in my high school history class playing with my hair when she sat behind me. For me, that counts as physical. Maybe, though, that was my protoqueer self who already was frustrated with heterosexual definitions of what counted as "sex."
29th-Jun-2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
My answer to number 4 doesn't appear here:
I'm bisexual in orientation, but in a monogamous relationship with someone of the opposite gender. And that doesn't make me straight! *g*
29th-Jun-2006 05:44 pm (UTC)
I didn't forget it, but maybe I didn't explain it clearly enough. I would include that inside the category of "Bisexual." I was trying, and apparently not doing a great job (partly because I doubt sexuality in general lends itself to radio button style answers) of trying to distinguish between identity and behavior. If you identify as bisexual, I figure you get to wear the label bisexual regardless of what the sex of the person or people you're in a relationship is or are. That is to say, if you identify as bisexual, and live your life as a bisexual, I don't assume that you have to be polyamorous or even a serial monogamist to identify as bi.

But maybe if I redo the poll, what I'd need would be seperate categories for behavior and identity. the problem with that is, as ladycat777 pointed out below, then you get into the fact that plenty of people define behavior differently.

Sorry if you didn't feel like the categories read the way I thought they did in my head. My goal wasn't to make anybody feel left out.
29th-Jun-2006 05:39 pm (UTC)
I liked the way you split the way people 'identify' themselves, but, um, you forgot one :)

Virgin. Now, that doesn't mean I am lily white and pure because I write some of the kinkiest porn out there -- but when it comes to physical interactions, for a lot of reasons, I've never actually had one. So ... am I straight? Am I bi? Gay? I dunno. I look at guys just as much as a look at girls, although sometimes I do look at girls more, but based on the language you chose it was hard for me to make a determination because ... uh, I don't know *g*

Now, here's where I say that if I sound short that is *not* at all directed at you. I've had this conversation many a time before, complete with people telling me I was lying, given the things I write :D
29th-Jun-2006 06:02 pm (UTC)
See, for me, and clearly I didn't do a great job of explaining this part, I was trying to get at how people identify themselves, which may or may not connect up to physical activity. I mean, I hear tell that there are plenty of women who identify as queer in some way who seem to have always known that they were lesbian. Others who seem to know they are attracted to both men and women, and others who seem to have known, long before they did much of anything, that they were heterosexual.

The problem is, as lola points out above, that I think some women do use slash communities as a place for a whole variety of degrees of connections between and among women. That is to say, I think that some women who would never, ever come out in their mundane lives, do enjoy flirting with women in slash fandom. There's not an easy way to get at the idea of a woman who identifies as straight but who might have the occasional fantasy about women and who might enjoy the emotional but not the physical aspects of "fandom crushes" or "fandom girlfriends" but who identifies and thinks of herself as straight, and distinguish that from someone who's early in her own coming out process, at least, not that I can think of.
(To be fair, I have NO formal training whatsoever in this kind of methodology), so I'm assuming most of the interesting interaction and dicsussion will take place in comments.

So in my head, as a virgin, you can fit yourself into any of the categories based on what your emotional attractions are.

But then, maybe I should have prefaced the whole poll with a discussion of the Klein Scale and/or the
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See, for me, and clearly I didn't do a great job of explaining this part, I was trying to get at how people identify themselves, which may or may not connect up to physical activity. I mean, I hear tell that there are plenty of women who identify as queer in some way who seem to have always known that they were lesbian. Others who seem to know they are attracted to both men and women, and others who seem to have known, long before they did much of anything, that they were heterosexual.

The problem is, as lola points out above, that I think some women do use slash communities as a place for a whole variety of degrees of connections between and among women. That is to say, I think that some women who would never, ever come out in their mundane lives, do enjoy flirting with women in slash fandom. There's not an easy way to get at the idea of a woman who identifies as straight but who might have the occasional fantasy about women and who might enjoy the emotional but not the physical aspects of "fandom crushes" or "fandom girlfriends" but who identifies and thinks of herself as straight, and distinguish that from someone who's early in her own coming out process, at least, not that I can think of.
(To be fair, I have NO formal training whatsoever in this kind of methodology), so I'm assuming most of the interesting interaction and dicsussion will take place in comments.

So in my head, as a virgin, you can fit yourself into any of the categories based on what your emotional attractions are.

But then, maybe I should have prefaced the whole poll with a discussion of the <a href="http://members.tde.com/ben/kleingrid.html">Klein Scale</a> and/or the <a href="http://www.psych.wright.edu/Kurdek01/MSS.htm"Multidimensonality scale</a> as well. I know Klein well. Multi is new to me, but I find both of them far superior to Kinsey.

It didn't sound short at all to me. But clearly, I didn't do the job I wish I could have done on making those distinctions clearer.
29th-Jun-2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
Cool poll! I always thought that slash fandom was more queer than original studies gave it credit for, myself.

Just to throw out another datapoint: I identify as bisexual, and I feel like slash fandom definitely helped... form my identity in some way. I'm not saying "slash fandom made me bi!" (though that would be a great title for a teen horror movie from the '50s), but it did introduce me to smart, interesting women -- role models! -- who happened to be queer, which kind of showed me that queerness was okay; and seeking out "slashy" movies and books led to me looking for queer movies and books, as well as an interest in gay rights, and immersing myself in all that, I think, helped me become aware of my own sexuality a bit more; and two of my closest friends are women I met through our shared interest in slash fandom, and those women turned out to be bi, which led me to examine my sexuality a little more closely than I ordinarily would have, perhaps.
29th-Jun-2006 06:18 pm (UTC)
You know, it's interesting. Through a long series of circumstances, which I won't go into here, I happened to have spent some quality time with one of the sociologists who worked on one of the big studies of kids of different kinds of families. His work is partly on whether kids of divorce are "worse off" than kids of intact two parent families, but he's also done work on kids of GLBT parents.

And I learned some very interesting things from him. The quantitative work shows that kids of parents who divorce are generally only worse off if the divorce decreases their economic position. Kids who are in intact families where the parents fight also do badly. And kids of GLBT parents, contrary to the way we queer folk talk about it, do actually in some ways turn out differently than kids from straight families: namely, they are more likely to question their sexuality than kids from straight families.

This isn't surprising, actually. My own coming out process sort of involved this ridiculous situation in which it took actually kissing a woman, and doing a bit more than that, and still not getting it until a make friend of ours asked me point blank if I was attracted to this woman. Only then did I think about it and realize that I was.

I could chalk that up to the generation I'm from, but I think that's slightly unfair. I absolutely think it's at least as much because I am legendarily oblivious to when people are flirting with me.

However, the idea that it hadn't entirely occurred to me until I encountered it--the fact that kids of queer parents are more likely to question their own sexuality--and the fact that you feel like exposure to smart interesting women--all seem to me like they are saying the same thing: anything that encourages us to think critically about sexuality makes us more likely to see the complexity in it, and slash certainly can have that effect. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.
29th-Jun-2006 05:51 pm (UTC)
For me, the answer to #5 is purely a numbers game, and I don't have the numbers. How many straight folks find same-sex love stories romantic and same-sex erotica sexy? If it's more than half, then it's normative. If it's less than half, it's non-normative. (I'm using "normative" in a purely statistical sense here, not some sort of prescriptive or judgmental sense, obviously.) My gut instinct is that the percentage in the straight population is more than 50% but less than 100%, but I don't know that for sure.
29th-Jun-2006 06:23 pm (UTC)
Reason #735162 I'm not a sociologist.

For me, coming from a humanities background, normative doesn't mean normative in the quantitative sense. It means normative as in what has the weight of society's coercive constructions of normative behind it.

That is to say, take sodomy laws. Sodomy laws in some states outlawed certain practices that I'm pretty sure a numerical majority of the population engaged in. But if a particular society still felt so strongly that it was somehow wrong or immoral that they made it illegal, even if everyone did it, then how normative would it really be?

I also think the problem with trying to measure the numbers is connected to some of the questions smart commenters have raised above. So, for example, are same sex stories more accepted in different geographical areas--urban/rural, some countries--and/or different age cohorts?

But yes, I'm not a sociologist, nor do I play one on television, which probably makes me the wrong person to do even an unofficial poll on this, huh?

Still, it has generated some interesting conversations, including your thoughtful response, for which I thank you.
29th-Jun-2006 06:51 pm (UTC)
I identify as somewhere in between lesbian and bi, with complications, and I actually tend to think of my slash interests as making me more queer rather than more straight. (Now, this may be because I'd rather be more queer than more straight, so take that as my bias.) I mean, what I get off on is not the guys as individuals, but the relationship between them, and the sex they have. So I'm turned on by queer relationships, and queer sex. The fact that they're not the *kind* of queer relationships or queer sex that my body seems to be cut out for just makes it that much more queer.

So while my slash desire could be read as undermining my lesbian identity by making me more straight, I choose read them as undermining my lesbian identity by making me more trans/gay male instead.
30th-Jun-2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
Huh. I hadn't thought of that, but you're right, that's an excellent point. I'd always suspected that there was sometimes an element of a kind of solidarity, but the idea of seeing oneself as sort of a trans/gay male is a very good point. I'll certainly think on that one a bit more, even if I've got no earthly idea how to fit *that* into a survey.

this, incidentally, is why I'm not a social scientist.

Excellent, excellent points.
29th-Jun-2006 07:29 pm (UTC)
I had to wrestle with your identity questions too - I chose bisexual because it's where my practice and history fits best, but I don't really feel comfortable with that as a descriptor. I like to identify as queer because to me that implies a discomfort with the official categories of identity politics while accepting that it's still politically useful to claim an identity, but your poll implied to me that I couldn't pick 'queer' without saying I have only and ever had same-sex desires...

I think that slash - and I'm 'only' a reader, mainly a lurker, and not as obsessive about that right now as I have been in the past - has had a definite influence on my sexuality. I always found the idea of two men together sexy, and have often felt a little guilty for secretly getting off on the hot men around me in mostly-male gay bars; discovering slash made me a lot more comfortable with accepting that as part of my sexuality. Also, and this is perhaps quite weird, I have a suspicion that reading story upon story where people get it on with each other made me better at getting people into bed - or at least more willing to experiment with making friendships sexual when I wanted them to be.

I go to a queer knitting group, and somehow or other one of the other members and I managed to mutually out ourselves as slash readers during the first meeting. We've had some fascinating conversations about it: she identifies as bi and queer and is partnered with a woman, and finds that the slash scratches her itch for, basically, cock. We've talked a lot about how queer the whole idea of slash felt to us from the moment we realised it existed. I've read a fair amount of the academic literature too, but it still would never occur to me to think that my interest in slash made me, in any way, 'straight'.
30th-Jun-2006 10:18 pm (UTC)
As far as queer only applying to same sex desire, wow, I hadn't meant that at all.

What I keep find myself smacking my head up against (to use a very southern colloquialism) is that I do feel, and this is *totally* my politics here, like I'd like to see research into whether some women who are into slash are straight-identified and straight-behaving, everywhere *but* in fandom, and don't consdier themselves bisexual but do consider themselves queer in the sense of non-normative, non-mainstream(whatever that means) sexuality.

the problem, of course, is figuring out which women are into slash in the "lesbian until graduation" sense, which might be women in the process of cominhg out, which women like the fantasize about same sex desire (either themselves with women, or two men together), but who are utterly heterosexual on every other axis.

I'm absolutely flummoxed in any attempt to get at that. I will, however, if I try this again after thinking it through, try to make the bisexual category also include queer. In my head, bisexual is queer, particularly in how it destablizes peoples' notions of sexuality in general as a dichotomy.

I hadn't thought about the idea that slash might give queer women a safe space to revel in their attraction to gay men (for personal reasons I won't bore the world with, I can't say I'm surprised that I'm currently demonstrating that particular blind spot), but I very much like the idea that slash can serve as a primer to women in terms of owning their own sexuality. If in no other respect, the fact that we've all gotten so blase about talking about sex in general would seem to help on that front. I'm esp. thinking thinky thoughts now about the "making friendships sexual" part. V. interesting indeed.

As far as a woman-centered-woman's itch for cock, well, there was one woman in the GLB (no T back in the day, sadly) group on campus who identified as a lesbian with a cock fetish. I think it's a bit more common than some of us might like to admit. Did you happen to see the short film "hung"? Just aired on Logo, and I just caught it. I'm always amused when collectively the world seems to conspire with hitting me multiple times with the same reminder.
29th-Jun-2006 07:41 pm (UTC)
I had to choose "Bisexual in some theoretical way, but heterosexual in practice," because that's about 95% right. By which I mean I've "acted" (or have wanted to act) in a physical way with men way more often than with women. I identify as "mostly straight."
30th-Jun-2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
My kingdom for a good social scientist who does quantitative and qualitative research!

No, really. As I explained above, the fundamental problem I keep running into is that I suspect that many women who have some homoerotic/homosensual tendencies that are fed by the slash community are also women who, for a whole variety of reasons, may not have acted upon those desires in meatspace (and boy isn't that a particularly unfortunate word for it given this particular conversation, no?), or at least not have acted on those desires in the ways that people might have measured or classified as sexual.

Thanks for the clarification. I will endeavor to find a way to ask the question more precisely.
29th-Jun-2006 08:12 pm (UTC)
Question 6 Explaination:

I was actually a bit torn between "no," "maybe," and "other." My immediate response was no because I know without question, from a past of defiantly beating my head up against the wall, that I am not sexually attracted to men, have no desire to be with them sexually, and can't force myself to enjoy being with them sexually no matter how hard I try.

So...I would have chosen "no" at that point, but I couldn't help asking myself, "Then why do you write and read the stuff so much?" A lengthy mental arguement ensued that left me annoyed but uncertain enough to consider clicking "maybe."

I finally ended up clicking "other" because of my own gender-bender nature. I identify as a "boi" and, in a way, feel more comfortable reading m/m slash, even though I get nothing sexual out of it. In terms of sheer sexual gratification, I'd rather read f/f, but I have the problems of A) most of my fandoms are all male and thus, it's very hard to get involved with/attached to other characters that I know nothing about and B) there's less f/f slash overall, let alone slash about characters that I care for.

I hope that was honest enough without being in any way offencive. Cheers.
30th-Jun-2006 10:28 pm (UTC)
Not offensive in the least bit.

As far as the relative dearth of femmeslash, I totally, totally hear you. I have complained in many a femmeslash panel, at many a slash con about the fear women in fandom seem to have about writing about the girly bits. this is all the more mind boggling since we seem to, you know, actually have the girly bits in the nondetachable, non silicon versions.

Actually, overall I found your comments quite illuminating. thanks for sharing.
29th-Jun-2006 08:50 pm (UTC)
In the "B" (and sometimes in the "T") part of GLBT, there ISN'T "another" gender to be attracted to other than the one we usually are, 'cause both.

And I think a lot of leatherfolk would consider their orientation as "BDSM" rather than vis a vis the gender of their partners.
30th-Jun-2006 10:32 pm (UTC)
Opsie, are my more leabian roots showing?

In all seriousness, you're right. And I'm going to have to figure out how to reword that if i do this again.

BDSM is a whole other issue. Not as in an "Oh God don't make me go there" issue, but as in "Oh god, the writer doesn't get it issue."

One of my most pronounced fanfic pet peeves is the tendency of bad/novice/naieve writers to presume that feminine/bottom/masochist and masculine/top/sadist are completely interchangeable terms and that they always line up that way.

I ranted somewhere, probably in email to a select group, although possibly to a mailing list, about the fact that each of those categories earns its own axis on the sexuality grid, or at least, it should. Just as Kinsey's linear scale is woefully inadequate because it doesn't take that into account, so too this one.

Excellent, excellent points.
29th-Jun-2006 09:19 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I'd consciously noticed the discrepancy between the common wisdom that most slash fen are straight, and my own experiences in fandom. But reading this and the responses, and being suddenly acutely aware of the discrepancy, I find myself wondering how much of the academic 'it's mostly straight women reading & writing this stuff' thing is partly:

- A rationalisation to affirm that this is a subject worth studying: it's not just some queer fringe phenomenon, because look, straight chicks are doing it too!

- Another rationalisation: for some reason, straight chicks are faaaaaaaascinating to think and theorize about. Everyone does it, throughout history. Going only by the published results (and particularly the tone thereof), An Alien Not From This Planet (TM) could be forgiven for thinking that straight women are the rarest, most exotic animal on earth, to be approached with caution. And possibly a dart gun.

- A way to diffuse the potentially scary queerness. I recall there being an emphasis (at least in the popular media articles) not just on straight women, but on straight, middle aged women. What could be more sexually innocent than that?

- A touch of sensationalism. Straight, middle aged chicks are doing WHAT?!

- historical. A number of us, me included, seem to have swerved from straight to bi --which seems to be a common experience for women outside of fandom too, but possibly it's easier to talk about it in fandom. At least, I've never been in any other social setting where the question 'how do you identify? inquiring minds want to know!' has come up quite so often.

I like the fact that our own sexual identities are discussed a lot, actually. It's nice to have a place where something that in the Real World (TM) matters a lot, and yet is made invisible. In fandom, it doesn't matter nearly as much (except to people personally, individually), and it's visible and gets talked about. I like the latter better. :)
30th-Jun-2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
I have my own pet theories on this.

First of all, I think it's partly a matter of the group of fans you hang with. Unsurprisingly, as a dyke, I fell into fandoms and social circles within larger fannish communities where other lesbian/queer/dyke fen were overrepresented. Not surprising given my orientation, really.

So part of me isn't sure that the earlier scholars were wrong so much as that they defaulted into groups that were not as queer as the ones I'd found.

Secondly, PR. When the first wave of fannish scholars were publishing, a lot of people in academia treated pop culture like the red headed step child as it was. Getting scholarship that didn't point and laugh at the freaks was complicated enough, without starting to air the aspects of fandom that may run the ost risk of being sensationalized and misunderstood.

The relationship that an acafan has to negotiate, between observing the rules of fen society, and at the same time following hte ethical guidelines of the university community, are already a complicated set of overlapping and sometimes conflicting requirements. It takes a while for an acafan to gain the trust of fannish communities even if he or she isn't going to go writing about something that muggles already presume (wrongly) about some fans.

I think the historical shift is also a part of it. and I'll go think some more on your other points. thanks for posting.
29th-Jun-2006 09:34 pm (UTC)
I think most of the academics are working off of Jenkins, which is very old data, re: demographic breakdown in slash fandom. There are definitely more gay men involved in slash than there were a decade ago, and it's my impression that the number of women in the community who self-identify as bi or lesbian has also grown quite a lot.

I identify as bisexual, and don't you think for a minute that makes me half heterosexual or try to tell me that I'm on the fence or some other biphobic crap.

That makes me laugh, as I just ranted about the subject to a friend in IM yesterday. I cannot count the number of women I was interested in who told me that I wasn't really bisexual, but merely queer and taking the "easy" path of heteronormativity in dating guys. Puh-leaze. Just how easy do they think it is, when I get shot down all the time for being bi? It'd be easier to self identify purely as straight or queer. "No," I would explain to them (possibly a little patronizingly, because sarcasm is a way of life for me), "I happen to like dick, thank you."

Anyway, this whole discussion reminded me of conversations I've had the recent past about female sexuality being more fluid (and more based on psychological stimulus) than male sexuality. There have been scientific studies where they've found that gay men have a specific different gene marker than straight men, for instance, while lesbians and straight women don't have any such differentiation. Also, in research on pheromones, they've found that females and gay males react to male-produced pheromones, while only straight males react to female-produced pheromones. It seems that sexual orientation in men is more a matter of biology than it is in women.

I've actually been pondering the sexual implications (as in, "is it a form of sex") of writing slash and interacting in certain ways with other women in the slash community. Not just the types of interaction like *kiss*ing and *lick*ing that go on in chat and in response to LJ posts, because those are as much a ritualized and not necessarily sexual behavior as anything, but things like the simple act of writing porn for the erotic appreciation of other women. That frisson that you get when you're working on something smutty and you quote bits of it in IM to a female friend and get positive and very distinctly sexual responses to it, for instance.
30th-Jun-2006 10:43 pm (UTC)
I figured out the sexual implications of it pretty early on in my fannish life. To be fair, I was worried that it was just perverted little me, and it took me a couple of years to figure out that it wasn't just me. I'm absolutely fascinated by the various ways that we all negotiate the reality of it. (I know one fan who pretty much goes with the school of "la la la, I don't hear you" when confronted with the knowledge that people are getting off on her stories, which frankly, is pretty much where I stand on it as a writer. I'm sure it happens, but i really don't want to know about it.)

I do think that chat in particular can be a highly erotic medium, particularly given the real time nature of the conversation. I've seen more than one story posted that was written in chat, and it seemed to be quite clear from the story itself that the cowriters were having nearly as much fun, on some level, as the characters themselves.
29th-Jun-2006 11:12 pm (UTC)
Good job with the poll and I can't wait to come back and see how the numbers fall.

It's tough to offer enough choices that will fit broad categories (while not offering so many that you dilute the data). Forced choices have to occur in a poll.
30th-Jun-2006 10:44 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes it is. Reason #7829.3 I'm not a social scientist.
30th-Jun-2006 01:47 am (UTC)
Interesting results!

I'm curious about how you're using "queer" here? In with the dyke, lesbian, and gay options, but not an option for bisexuals. I think of myself as a "queer-identified bisexual," meaning that I am in theory and practice bisexual, but I also have a consciously critical stance toward and non-normative experience of both gender and sexual identities. I'd have liked to see a question about the complexity and stability or instability of slash fans' gender identities, too. Oh, and also, what about asexuality? I know I have at least one person on my friends list who has talked about that.

Anyway, just thoughts for further refinement, but thanks so much for asking the questions. :) I get really frustrated with the conventional wisdom about the heterosexual femaleness of slash fandom.
30th-Jun-2006 10:48 pm (UTC)
You see, I think this is the fundamental problem.

I don't think we, even as a slash community, can even begin to agree on the meaning of the word queer. i use it to mean different things, and I tend to redefine it each time I use it in conversation.

I think what really came out of the poll is my own discomfort with the word lesbian.

It's one of the reasons that I think the Klein scale is must more useful than the Kinsey.

In my past, I had relationships with men. at the time, I'd never considered the possibility of a relationship with a woman. At present, I have no interest in relationships with men. But given that in the past I had no interest in relationships with women, it seems foolhardy to identify as 100% lesbian, because, hello, in the past i identified as 100% straight, and we see how well that worked.

Certainly in the next version, if there is one, I'll try to work that out. I honestly don't know why I didn't put queer in with bisexual, because I dislike that label, although less than I dislike lesbian.

And yes, *after* I posted, I thought about the asexual category.
30th-Jun-2006 02:10 am (UTC)
Oooh, thank you for this post. The whole "slash is written by straight women" thing drives me batty as well, particularly because it bears so little resemblence to my actual experiance in fandom.

I replied as straight bisexual, although actually I'm more of a theoretically bi lesbian these days. I've slept with men in the past, and I'm still attracted to men, but I could go the rest of my life without sleeping with another one and not really miss it, I think.

I'd be more coherent, but I'm still struggling to work through replies to my post, which has generated way more conversation then I ever could have imagined.
30th-Jun-2006 10:45 pm (UTC)
Also, getting back to the "majority" question--I've read a figure of 30% of slashwriters being lesbian or bisexual women, which feels right to me based on my own fannish experience. So that means that (given the very, very small number of men of any orientation involved) more than 60% of the writers are straight women. So that's a "majority" but OTOH the percentage of writers-with-some-degree-of-same-sex-interests is much, much greater than in the culture at large.
30th-Jun-2006 02:24 am (UTC)
You missed the "functionally bisexual but identifying as gay because at some point you have to take a stand about the people running the country and pick the side that's less evil regardless of who you're sleeping with at any given time" option *g*
30th-Jun-2006 11:04 pm (UTC)
lol. see, the Klein scale takes that into account.

OTOH, I've not got a clue how on earth you could actually fit the Klein scale onto any form known to humankind.
1st-Jul-2006 03:19 am (UTC)
i don't think reading and writing slash makes me 'a little queer' - but i'm heavily kink-curious, and am actively looking for a d/s relationship. i'm fairly subby, well, actually, i'm farily sammy, but that's another story.
3rd-Jul-2006 06:52 pm (UTC)
If I were ever to redo this in a more scientific way, I think I'd want to talk about the BDSM/vanilla axis of sexuality as well.

Without revealing too many details, the first straight man I knew in slash seemed to me to have kink tendencies, and i long suspected that part of the appeal of slash for him was that it provided him a space to explore those desires that he wasn't getting in his meatspace life.

I'm not looking at gender when I post these replies, so I'm not presuming anything about you, but as someone pointed out above, I need to carve our space for that as well as asexuality in any revised version.

Thanks for responding.
1st-Jul-2006 04:33 am (UTC)
I don't know why, but it amkes me happy to see 4 guys here. I guess I just love the fact that there are male slashers, and this isn't just a girl thing.
2nd-Jul-2006 03:23 am (UTC)
Any straight guys, though? I'd doubt it...
1st-Jul-2006 10:15 pm (UTC)
my understanding of the word queer is it includes pretty much everything except plain vanilla het. Bi=queer.
I identify queer but it doesn't mean I'm lesbian. It means I don't believe in the boxes, let alone fit them.
1st-Jul-2006 10:21 pm (UTC)
I gave conflicting answers to the last two questions for a couple of different reasons. First, a semantic issues: writing slash doesn't define my sexuality. Writing slash is an expression OF my sexuality, not the other way around.

Second, I've been functionally celibate for years now, but prior to that the vast majority of my relationships were queer-conscious relationships with queer men (even though I'm female). I had relationships with women too, but my point here is that defining my relationships with men as "straight" isn't accurate.

Orientation is so complicated...
3rd-Jul-2006 06:58 pm (UTC)
Again, if I redo this in a revised way later, I will certainly take your first point into account.

As for your second, it wouldn't surprise me at all if there was a way in which slash appeals to those of us whose sexuality is outside the bounds of even the straight/bi/gay continuum.

One of the folks I know through slash, for example, is a woman, currently in a relationship with a woman, but most of her close friends are gay men. Where would that fit on the Klein grid that takes friendships and emotional intimacy into account?

If you don't mind me asking (and I will take no offense if you choose not to answer), would you be interested in seeing a poll that asked about your emotional relationships and whether you thought those were part of your sexuality, even if you were functionally celibate?

I ask because for me, frankly, some of my slash friendships have felt erotic, even if they weren't physical, and even if I never wanted them to become physical. But I don't know how much of that is just me.
(Deleted comment)
3rd-Jul-2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for filling in the details for me. If there are any ways that you felt like the poll itself should be changed, feel free to drop them in a comment or by email.
1st-Jul-2006 11:05 pm (UTC) - Clarifying
Here via metafandom. My identity varies between bi-gendered and gender-neutral with a consistent attraction to women and levels of attraction to men that varies according to how 'boyish' I feel on any given day (I have a definite kink for flirting with straight men while in full boy-mode).

I write (and read) pairings that feel true to the characters, regardless of who (if anyone) they're paired with. That's equally true for fanfic and original fiction. I'd like to see more bisexual characters in published fiction, but only where the character reads as truly wired that way.
3rd-Jul-2006 07:03 pm (UTC) - Bi Characters
I have a long, long rant about how characters, even when they seem bi, suddenly get rewritten as Teh Big Gay all the time.

For some reason, Chasing Amy makes me nuts on this front. As does the characterization of Willow on Buffy

In both cases, it's possible that these characters are lesbians who for a variety of reasons choose to sleep with one man in particular, and I'm totally okay with that as an identity. I think my negative reaction is that the texts themselves seem not to acknowledge that an identity as "bi" is even a possibility on the radar screen.

Thanks for the response.
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